I’m Lactose Intolerant, But I Can’t Leave Milk Alone

April 4, 2022

At the start of 2022, while the world was busy making New Year resolutions, my stomach decided to make a New Year resolution of its own — it was going to stop digesting dairy. 

Did I mention that I wasn’t consulted when this decision was made? I just woke up one day, had cereal with four scoops of full cream milk as usual, and then my stomach started fighting with me.  It felt like my enemies were pounding yam inside my stomach, and I felt like I’d just finished swallowing a cow. There were tears, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Initially, I thought I had food poisoning and even contemplated suing the company behind the cereal in question. But when I told my  lawyer friend, he looked at me as if I was on crack. But the pain happened again and again, each time I ate anything containing milk. I had to start asking questions. 

My friend who’s also lactose intolerant suggested that I stay off milk for about three days. It worked and I started knowing peace. Since Nigerians rarely get tested for lactose intolerance, this was my DIY confirmation test. 

RECOMMENDED: This Is How Nigerians Like Their Cereal

How could this happen to me? 

I’m not ashamed to admit that before entering the one-chance bus of lactose intolerance, I didn’t know much about it. In my head, it was something you were  born with, while the blessed ones like me were born free from that affliction for life. But I was wrong and my ignorance had come back to bite my perfectly toned behind. 

Imagine my shock when I discovered that while some people start dealing with lactose intolerance at an early age, some people can and do develop it over time, as they get older. I’d been mocking my lactose intolerant friends all my life, and then my body looked at me and said, “Milk? Dfkm.”

The first relative I told about my new health discovery was my uncle. Big mistake. He laughed and told me, “That kind thing no dey do Nigerians.” Then he claimed that it was because I was always staying in my room and pressed my phone. But what did I expect? 

As if that wasn’t enough, he decided to post it on our family WhatsApp “platform” and it became the topic of discussion for over two weeks.

My stomach battles, as I like to call them, have different pain levels. Sometimes it’s minor and I can go about my day, but other times, well, it can be paralysing. On days when it’s bad and I can barely function, my family automatically  thinks I’m just lying to avoid chores, but at this point, I’m tired of explaining myself. 

RELATED: QUIZ: What Flavour of Milk Are You?

My life is changing and I don’t like it 

Do you know how many things have lactose in them? I’m now at the point where  my only options are amala and semo. I’m not supposed to down cold yoghurt or ice cream in this heat, eat cheese naan at my favourite Indian restaurant or buy fura from the woman in my estate. Is this life? 

The stomach aches, bloating and purging have made me super self-conscious because I can’t just be taking off my pant all around town and using people’s toilets. I vividly remember the time I almost pooped in my pants at the gym under a barbell. Imagine going back to the gym after something like that?  I also have to be conscious not to take dairy before fornication so I don’t  fart all through. Is this life? 

But I have coconut head

You’d think after all the pain and embarrassment I’ve experienced I’d give up on dairy and focus on being a well-functioning young man, but alas. The ironic thing is, I’m typing this and cradling a bowl of Weetabix — and yes, with full cream milk.. 

Before you judge me, know that I actually tried to stay away from dairy. I’ve tried soy and almond milk, avoided eating cheese and ice cream and all that good stuff, but just like  someone’s who’s been dickmatized, I keep coming back to these things. Why? Well, maybe it has something to do with my fear of change. A fear that stops me from trying out new food in restaurants or redecorating my room, even though I keep bookmarking decor inspo from Pinterest. Making life changes scare the shit out of me and walking away from milk — something that has been a part of my life since birth — is torture. 

Then again, my obsession with the thing that almost kills me every day feels like a metaphor for all my love life and my desire to endure long-suffering relationships. But I guess, this is something I’d have to unpack with my future therapist one day.

I’ve heard of options like Lactaid and considered watching what I eat, but that’s for people trying to make better choices, not me. All I know is, I feel like Rue from Euphoria but without the cool soundtrack and purple lighting.  Is it not ordinary purging and stomach aches? I know milk is bad for me, but I live in Nigeria and I’m still alive.

Each time I eat something containing lactose, I endure the discomfort. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the things we love. 

ALSO READ: What It Means to Be Nigerian and Lactose Intolerant

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